Monthly Archives: June 2015

Old Car Festival is a Big Social Gathering

car 13By Sue Moore

“It’s a big car gathering,” that will be coming to Vicksburg for the 35th annual Old Car Festival, according to Skip Knowles, the originator of the event in 1980. “We try to keep it fun, with not a lot of rigid rules or structure, just car folk having a good time.”

That good time on June 12 and 13 in downtown Vicksburg includes something for everyone, he said, although the festival hasn’t changed much since the first few years because it has been so successful. It is offered under the auspices of the Vicksburg Community Association (VCA) which stands to benefit if it makes a few dollars. “It’s not about the money, as we are lucky if we break even. It’s the atmosphere where car guys come for the camaraderie and getting recognized for their vehicles. Others could care less, they just enjoy getting together,” Knowles said.

Cruise Night is on Friday around 5 p.m. to kick off the event, when street rods cruise in, park their cars, put up the hood, and just socialize.

With an all-volunteer crew, Knowles and his sons Chad and Ryan don’t get much sleep as they move around the village early Saturday morning, setting up the street barricades to get ready for the first car—which might show up by dawn. Knowles is also enlisting his grandchildren, Anna and Anthony, teaching them where all the cars need to go up and down Main and Prairie Streets.

They are joined by the fire department volunteers who offer a pancake breakfast beginning at 7 a.m. at the village station on the corner of S. Main and Washington streets. The Depot Museum and the Historic Village on Richardson Street will be open for tours and old cars by 9 a.m., with the Tin Can Tourists exhibiting their special brand of hospitality on the grounds of the Village.

Visitors to downtown Vicksburg will be treated to live music on Main Street with the high school jazz band. There will be special guest display cars on the corners of Main and Prairie streets and an Arts & Craft Show from 9 – 4 in Clark Park. Apple Knockers Ice Cream Parlor will stage its annual Hot Dog Eating contest in the afternoon in the parking lot beside their store.

Gail Reisterer with her crew of volunteers will again be organizing the Vicksburg District Library’s annual book sale from 10 – 4 p.m. in the lower level of the building at 215 Michigan Avenue. The Vicksburg Community School Foundation’s (VCSF) annual Duck Derby Race will take place at 1 p.m. in Clark Park. It too is a fund raiser for the VCSF, featuring hundreds of rubber ducks with numbers written on their backs, floating down the waterway to the joy or consternation of those who think they have purchased the winning ticket.

The thousands of visitors to the show are invited to judge the entries with trophies awarded between 3:30 and 4 p.m. With a final roar, the cars will be gone, the streets will be emptied, and the village cleanup crews will take over. By 5 p.m., residents would hardly know there were 10,000 visitors passing through the village on the day of the Old Car Festival.

The Lemon Lime Studebaker

stude guys
Dennis Gage (with the big mustache) from the TV show “My Classic Car” is standing beside Larry Gardon and his ’55 Studebaker at the French Link Concourse show.

By Sue Moore

One of the feature cars on Vicksburg’s main four corners for the Old Car Festival this year will be a 1955 Studebaker Speedster, owned by Larry Gardon of Quincy, Michigan. He likes to attend the Vicksburg Old Car Festival because there are so many nice people here and he has become good friends with the Skip Knowles family of volunteers.

Only 2,200 of these cars were manufactured by Studebaker in 1955. About 200 are left around the country, according to Gardon. He traveled to Missouri to purchase the disassembled car. He said he was worried about whether all the parts were there. But when he trailered it home and started to work on it, he had all the parts he needed.

It took him about two years to put it back into commission, with help from his wife Patricia and several other restoration friends. “I try to know my limitations,” Gardon said. “I put a lot of money into it, wanting it to be done right. Others have helped with the paint and body work. Visitors to the car show won’t have much trouble finding the car, as the paint job is done in ‘off the wall’ colors. It resembles dandelion yellow and grass green, but the Studebaker people called it ‘lemon lime’,” Gardon said.

“It was finished last fall, so it hasn’t been to many shows. I have been reserving it for the Vicksburg car show, then we have been invited to the prestigious St. John’s concourse show in Plymouth, Michigan later in June.”

Gardon owns seven Studebaker models and has been bringing them to Vicksburg over the last eight years. Several years ago, he exhibited an antique milk truck that caught a lot of visitors’ attention. He is also a member of the Chelsea, Michigan car club. This group is bringing eight cars for the show. Knowles is reserving a special space for them, since they won’t be getting here at the crack of dawn.

Studebaker in South Bend built its last car in 1966. The company just couldn’t keep up with the competition from the Big Three automakers, Gardon said. But he added it built high-quality vehicles that were way ahead of their time in styling and innovation, which is one of the reasons Gardon enjoys owning this line of cars. He is a retired pharmacist, working many years for the State of Michigan’s prison system.

Duck Derby Takes Place in Clark Park

duck 5By Sue Moore

Vicksburg Village has the perfect stream to race rubber ducks, according to Amy Manchester who helps organize the race each year. It will be held in Clark Park at 1 p.m., June 13. It is also where the Band Boosters will also stage the Annual Arts and Crafts sale at the same time during the Old Car Festival from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Members of the Vicksburg Community Schools Foundation (VCSF) have been busy tapping on their friends, neighbors, and school children to buy tickets for the annual race. It has become a ritual for Kim Kline, the past president of the Foundation to attract the attention of the many entrants. She counts down to dumping hundreds of rubber ducks into thduck 4e stream at the top of the bridge on W. Prairie Street. Kids follow their hopeful winning duck as it meanders down the stream to go under the bridge on W. Washington Street. Rudy Callen, school board member and past VCSF president, is the worthy MC of the race, calling out the duck numbers (if he can see them) on their trip down the creek. Members of the VCSF board have been seen wading into the creek to corral the winning duck, with even Superintendent Charlie Glaes taking a turn at stopping the elusive critters.

Prizes are plentiful for first, second and third place in both the student and adult heats of the well-choreographed race to the finish line. This is a fundraiser for the VCSF which provides scholarships to high school seniors, curiosity grants to grade school students, and Bardeen grants to teachers to further their classroom work. Six local sponsors from the business community have their own heat in the race to see who can finish fastest. They include Grossman LLC, Hill’s Pharmacy, Oswalt Family Farms, the Munn Agency, Edward Jones, and the Ralph Hayward Agency.

Tickets will be sold to the public at a booth on W. Prairie Street before the start of the race. There were over 500 entries in 2014, according to Kline.

Book Sale at Vicksburg Library

booksaleBy Sue Moore

Once a year, there’s a line stretching out to the street from the door of the Vicksburg District Library. It’s the opening day of the book sale, part of the Old Car Festival. This year, it begins at 10 a.m. on Friday, June 12 and ends on Monday, June 15 at 1 p.m., during the library’s regular hours.

Those waiting patiently for the doors to open Friday may include collectors or those who have waited a year to upgrade their home library. Those who march out with a bagful of books on Monday may be looking for the deal of a lifetime because they can cram as many books in a shopping bag for total price of $2.

People are still reading good books, according to the dedicated organizer of the book sale, Gail Reisterer. “We are grateful for the thousands of donated books from community members that makes the sale so successful. The Old Car Festival each year brings hundreds to the library for this sale, so it’s a perfect time for us to earn extra money for the permanent children’s book collection.

This year’s attractions include a fabulous display of donated cook books, according to Reisterer. There are lots of good history books, some by noted area author Larry Massie. Reisterer is pleased to offer a whole set of Dr. Charles Van Riper’s novels. Van Riper taught speech pathology at Western Michigan University when Reisterer was a student there.

She is particularly enthused about a collection of old-time radio show tapes that showcase the likes of Frank Sinatra. They also have lots of video tapes for VCRs that will sell for dirt cheap, Reisterer said. Local residents will need to get in that line early on Friday, if they want to acquire some of these special items, including puzzles, collectables and some Gwen Frostic works, she advised.

Volunteers help all year long to organize the thousands of donated books and work at the actual sale. Then it starts all over again for Reisterer. This is her 20th year of heading up the sale.

Names From Vicksburg’s Past Adorn Ford Coupe

ocf ketchbaw
Candy and Dan Ketchbaw have already received a trophy for their newly remodeled Ford coupe that will be displayed at the Vicksburg Old Car Festival.

By Sue Moore

Old timers in Vicksburg might remember the Wee Diner and Doris Lee Sweet Shop, said Dan Ketchbaw, who has honored these two establishments by putting their name on his 1939 Ford coupe.

“My dad used to bring me to Vicksburg from our home in Comstock to eat at the Wee Diner. I remember it with great fondness. We didn’t often go to Doris Lee for dessert, but I loved the idea of the sweet shop anyway,” Ketchbaw said.

Also emblazoned on the restored car’s paint job is the number “89” for his wife’s pioneering heart transplant at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. She had the surgery on May 8, 1989, and was the 89th transplant recipient in the state of Michigan. It was somewhat experimental at that time, but she pulled through without a hitch and is now healthy and happy, living with him in Vicksburg near Indian Lake for the last 24 years.

It took a lot to redo this car, almost four years, he said. “It should have been thrown away 15 years ago. I found this one that I could hack up and nobody would be mad at me. I built it from the ground up. It was junk when we pulled onto the property, but I love playing with cars, and I only work on Fords. It would make a good stock car with lots of horse power, racy, with a cute body style. I bought this one from Thad Reeder’s dad.”

According to Skip Knowles, this was the kind of Ford car that John Dillinger drove as a get-away car, because they were fast. It was the precursor to stock cars that were used in NASCAR races. It has a Flathead V8 engine that makes it ultrafast.

The car is also painted red and white for Vicksburg Bulldog colors, so the Ketchbaws show their loyalty to their home town in several different ways, Knowles acknowledged. He plans to park the car on the corner where the Wee Diner used to exist until it was removed from the exterior of the building on the northeast corner of Main and Prairie Streets. Doris Lee Sweet Shop was right around the corner from the Wee Diner on East Prairie until it closed in the 1990s.

Free Child ID Program at Old Car Festival

Child_ID_logo_2009The Portage-Brady Masonic Lodge #340 will be providing a free child identification program. The program will be conducted from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at 103 W. Prairie St. at the Old Car Festival in Vicksburg on Saturday, June 13.

Each child that goes through the process will receive a dental impression as well as a CD containing a photo, video, digital fingerprints and their vital information. Parents or guardians of children who participate must be present and fill out a permission slip for the child to receive this service. Children who have already received the service are encouraged to repeat the process every two years to keep the information in the completed packets current.

The Michigan Child Identification Program provides the family with everything needed for the Amber Alert System. Since 2005 over 70,000 Michigan children have received this valuable service. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children considers the Michigan Child Identification Program to be one of the most comprehensive of its kind.

For questions or more information about the event you may call 269-612-7424 or consult the Michigan Child ID Web Site at

Schoolcraft Graduation

Vicksburg Graduation

Vicksburg and Schoolcraft Senior Award Recipients

Makerspace Created at Indian Lake School

maker 5
Don Puckett, an IT manager for Vicksburg schools, who initiated the Makerspace program at Indian Lake elementary, had 30 youngsters sign up for the 4-5 week after school class.

By Sue Moore

Walking into a classroom at Indian Lake Elementary School after most of the kids are gone for the day, visitors would be surprised to find a room full of bright-eyed students, buzzing all over the place, building and destroying at the same time.

These kids are in the newest “makerspace” an after-school club for innovative thinking which involves science and math for students from first through fifth grades. They have all kinds of equipment to tinker with, to make whatever their imagination can conjure up on a given day.

Makerspace is a movement in the U.S. for people of all ages, according to Don Puckett, volunteer coordinator of the program at Indian Lake. He is the information technology person for the Vicksburg school system and attended a conference in Lansing last year about this innovative idea. He was quick to pounce upon it for Vicksburg schools. With the help of Principal Ruth Hook, who wrote the grant application, his idea was awarded $3,744 from the Vicksburg Community Schools Foundation to purchase the crazy quilt of equipment that populates the classroom.

“The implementation of a makerspace lab will provide K-5 students at Indian Lake the opportunity to explore math and science concepts above and beyond what is available in their classrooms. It will provide the opportunity to learn problem-solving and critical thinking skills as they work on projects, and present to each other in a lab setting,” wrote Hook in her grant application.

The most expensive purchase was a 3D printer, so the kids can actually see their ideas grow into reality. They design on their iPads, then send their work to the 3D printer which whips out their project in an actual replica they can touch and show off to their friends in class or even take home to Mom. Owen Moberly made a vase for his mom’s lilacs that he was eager to show off.

This makerspace trend in the ed tech world is catching on for children and adults alike. It is defined as a physical place where students can create real-world products and projects using real-world tools. It is meant to be a shared workspace featuring innovative tools that are not typically available outside of school. Makerspaces at their ideal are inhabited by a community of student tinkerers, inventors, creators and “do it yourselfers,” according to an article in the Massachusetts Cue newsletter.

In some ways it also mirrors what is happening at the high school level with Project Lead the Way out of Kalamazoo Regional Education Service Agency (KRESA) and in Vicksburg under the tutelage of Greg Mills the Industrial Arts instructor. The maker movement is driving innovation in manufacturing, engineering, industrial design, hardware technology and education in his classroom. There is also a group forming in Kalamazoo for adults who want to participate in a makerspace.

These student tinkerers at their best are guided by natural inquiry and self-directed learning. Making can be tied to different content areas, though makerspaces themselves are informal in nature. Students use problem-solving and diagnostic skills to come up with creative solutions. Educators who are involved guide from the sidelines, encouraging independent learning and creativity. Puckett said he is only in the classroom to allow the kids to make most anything they want. He doesn’t put any restrictions on their imagination, thus the large variety of projects going on the one day a week that the students meet. Thirty students signed up for the initial class, Puckett reported, after an invitation was sent home to students earlier in the spring. They seem giddy with their achievements in such a short time.